Look skyward tonight for the ‘Tears of St. Lawrence’

August 12, 2011

Eye on Faith and Science

Each August, skywatchers are treated to the Perseid meteor shower — one of the best annual displays of “shooting stars.”

This year the Perseids peak on the night of Aug. 12-13, although the nearly full moon will interfere with your ability to see many meteors — debris left by Comet Swift-Tuttle through which the Earth passes. If you’re lucky, this year you might see as many as a few dozen per minute.

The shower gets its name from the location in the sky from which the meteors appear to radiate — in this case, a point near the border between the constellations Perseus and Cassiopeia, although the meteors might flash anywhere across the sky.

The Perseids are also known in some circles as the “Tears of St. Lawrence”  — named after the third-century martyr whose feast day, Aug. 10, typically falls when the meteor shower is most visible.

The easiest way to watch the Perseids is to lie back in a comfortable lounge-style chair with a blanket and snacks. Plan on staying outside for an hour or two for the best viewing experience.

For those in the Twin Cities area and western Wisconsin who would like to learn more about the Perseids and the night sky, the University of Minnesota astronomy department is hosting a free Perseid Meteor Shower Party from 9 to 11 p.m. Aug. 12 at William O’Brien State Park near Marine On St. Croix. The evening will include a short indoor presentation and then telescope viewing of celestial objects in addition to meteor shower watching. For more information, call 651-433-0500.

So pray the skies stay clear and make it a family night under the stars, planets and the Tears of St. Lawrence.

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About Joe Towalski

Editor of The Catholic Spirit, husband, dad, baseball fan(atic), astronomy buff. Follow me on Twitter @towalskij

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